This past fall break , slightly over a dozen students and faculty from Princeton University descended on several key cities in the southern United States. Our foray into the cotton belt was marked by in-depth discussions, harsh realities, inconceivable warmth, and… Sweet Tea.
Meals often functioned as the grounding moments of our trip; we dined together for the majority of our visit, breaking bread and rehashing stories from the day, and other times, simply learning more about one another. We could always count on breakfast meetings at the hotel, or a group lunch at Joni’s to bring us all back together again, while in the evenings we would explore a bit more, checking out local eateries our new friends had recommended, or spots we had seen in passing. Over time though, as schedules grew more busy, and specific interviews spread our team out around the delta area, our shared meals grew a bit less consistent. One thing we could always count on though, was sweet tea.
A staple beverage of the region, traditional southern sweet tea isn’t like the mess you get from Dunkin’ Donuts in July, or from an Arnold Palmer can at your local convenience store. Sweet tea is brewed with care and served with love down here. Whether from artisanal mason jars, or clattering plastic cups, or in a bulging styrofoam vessel brimming with ice cubes (the best kind), we found sweet tea everywhere we went– and indulged accordingly.
Eventually, sweet tea began to become something we looked forward to each day. Perhaps it was because we had to ration ourselves to one cup a day to avoid a sugar rush and long term health concerns. Or, maybe we were simply looking forward to the moments we shared over sweet tea. Our experiences this past week were transformative in many senses, but I think what’s transformed most markedly is our relationships with one another. Cheers to Mound Bayou, our team, and of course, sweet tea.